Clarissa Kraayenbrink- Staff Writer
On Mar. 24, Lewis was driving back to campus after a job interview near his home in Glenwood, IA, when he smashed into a truck.
“I remember getting gas and saying bye to my mom before I left,” Jacob Lewis said. “I remember getting on the highway, and then that’s all I remember until I woke up two weeks later.”
It was a snowy and icy day when Lewis’s car hit a patch of slush heading north out of Merrill, IA, and collided with a semi-truck. The collision flipped the semi, and Lewis’s car was totaled.
First responders from Mercy Air Care in Sioux City, IA, came in a helicopter to pick Lewis up and take him to the hospital. Dean of Chapel Aaron Baart, Dean of Students Robert Taylor and Assistant Basketball Coach Derek Keizer drove down to Sioux City where they hoped they could meet and pray with Lewis.
“The medical staff invited Derek and I into where they were prepping him for a life flight,” Baart said. “There, we got to pray over him and over the doctors and nurses as they scrambled. It was scary. Even some of the nurses were crying and his life certainly seemed [to be] in jeopardy at that time.”
Not much time passed when the medical staff determined that they could not care for Lewis in Sioux City. In critical condition, they airlifted him to Omaha, NE, where he received over 24 hours of surgeries. Lewis suffered many fractures, most notably in his vertebrae and pelvis.
“What was really remarkable — and a miracle from God, for sure — was that he did not sustain any head injuries,” said men’s basketball head coach Ross Douma. “But really from his neck down to his knees, he had something that was broken or injured virtually every four inches.”
Lewis was eventually moved to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, NE, where he relearned how to stand and walk and perform activities of daily living. The basketball team visited him while he was at Madonna to lift his spirits and get his mind off rehab for a while.
“There was a lot of joking and normal talk,” Lewis said. “They did a good job of not dwelling on [the accident] or talking about it too much.”
Rehab progressed well in the coming months, even allowing Lewis to return to Dordt and to his basketball family this fall. He found the toughest part of his rehab to be not necessarily the physical aspect, but the mental.
“I had to ask my parents and nurses for everything,” Lewis said. “That was pretty tough, being a 19-year-old college student living on my own. That was probably the worst — having to rely on everybody for everything from feeding me to getting a glass of water.”
Lewis said this experience will help him relate to others better as he plans to become a physical therapist someday.
“I’m looking forward to being on the other end of it,” Lewis said. “My therapists at Madonna and at home think it would be a good way for me to relate with patients who come in, knowing what they’re going through. Being in the hospital and then the rehab center and then outpatient, it’s helped me make my decision in that area.”
Back at school, Lewis is working with Dordt’s athletic trainers two to three times a week to get his strength and coordination back. Although he won’t be on the basketball court this season, he will be helping out the team in other aspects as a student manager, encourager and friend.
“He’s been a real, positive example of somebody who just keeps on fighting,” Douma said. “He had two concussions during the season last year that kept him out and he was undeterred. He had a rough freshman year, in many regards. It would’ve been easy for a lot of people to just throw in the towel and look for another school close to home. But he wanted to come back and finish what he started. I think that really speaks volumes about him and his character and how he was raised.”